College of Business graduates first Online EMBA cohort

University of Nevada, Reno program participants say the online program was well thought out and structured for the online learning environment

8/26/2013 - By: Nicole Shearer
The University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Business first online EMBA graduating class. Back row, from left to right: Christine Casey, Nova Coffron, Matthew Gardner, Lilliana Camacho, Matthew Spaur. Front row, from left to right: Christine Meder, Kurt Althof, Christina Dils, Tracey Gray McDonald. Not pictured: Mark Behl, Jonathan Brodie, Howard Hales, Joseph Russo

Students interested in pursuing an Executive Master's in Business Administration (EMBA) have a lot of options today versus 10 years ago. They can still attend brick and mortar universities, which offer classroom style settings, and choose between programs that offer full or part time enrollment. They can also now select one of many online EMBA programs, several of which are offered by those same, highly accredited universities. Two years ago, 13 students decided to invest their time and effort into the University of Nevada, Reno's College of Business first online EMBA program. This first cohort not only received their EMBA degrees Saturday, Aug. 24, but also walked away with a new appreciation for the online learning environment.

"It's the way the world works," Kurt Althof, EMBA graduate and business development manager for Care Flight, said. "If you can't operate in an online world, chances are you're going to struggle. Operating online is becoming more and more of an indirect life skill."

The College of Business online EMBA program, a partnership with the University's Extended Studies, is a cohort-based program consisting of 12 online courses divided into two groups. Students take six courses in their first year of study and take the remaining six in their second year of the program. It is taught by the same faculty who teach the college's part-time MBA program, which is ranked No. 4 in the country by Bloomberg Business Week.

"I really felt like the difference between the online and face-to-face EMBA programs was minimal," Jeff Wong, associate professor and accounting department chair at the College of Business, said. "Our goal with structuring the program was to offer two first courses that really got students use to learning in the online environment. In teaching these online courses you, as a professor, can use Internet resources and offer students the flexibility to arrange their own work around deadlines. This cohort was quick to develop a rhythm of work."

Wong, who was also part of the admissions team, went on to say that expectations from this group were made clear at the beginning.

"The college really looked for a group of self-directed individuals who had the ability to ask a lot of questions," Wong said. "We made every effort to clearly communicate what was expected so there were no surprises."

Much of the lure for this program came for the necessity for the many mid-career executives and experienced professionals who want to advance in the challenging business world but in a format that allows for them to continue working.                                                                                 

"I had been out of school for 10 years before starting this program so adapting to the online environment was a challenge for me at first," Christina Dils, EMBA graduate and group facility administrator at Divita Dialysis, said. "The toughest part was making the time between family and work commitments. The way the first semester was set up really helped me learn how to organize my time. Once I set a regular learning schedule, I was surprised at how quickly I fell into a groove."

"Every detail of this program is designed to ensure student success - from the professors to the classes and the way all of the content is prepared," EMBA Program Director Kambiz Raffiee said. "The online EMBA is a reality because of the superb faculty this program has. It would not have been possible without their intense commitment."

Yvonne Stedham, professor of managerial sciences who taught the international management class for the cohort, said it was an interesting challenge for her at first to conceptualize how to put her class together in an online format.

"In international management things change so quickly and the online environment is pre-structured," Stedham said. "Once we got going and I saw the flexibility we had, I was pleasantly surprised at how in-depth these students took online conversations and really got involved in the discussion groups. They were a very committed group and respectful of the work they needed to accomplish. For me this was a learning outcome by itself as I'm now feeling comfortable and enjoying using online technology to teach these classes."

The College of Business Online EMBA program was ranked 55th out of more than 220 institutions in U.S. News and World Report's annual ranking of the top online MBA programs in 2013 and continues to receive accolades as it was recently ranked fourth in the Top Online Executive MBA Programs by BusinessMBA.org.

"This is the real deal," Althof said. "The way the program is set up gave me the opportunity to go to my local University with a flexible school schedule. I'm proud of the fact that I can now call myself a College of Business alum."

ABOUT EMBA:  Offered online, the EMBA program has full accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the highest level of business accreditation attainable in business education. Since the program launched in August 2011, enrollment has risen more than 280 percent. The cohort set to graduate in 2014 has 25 students pursuing their EMBA and this year, the cohort which started in August already has 32 participants.

For information about the University of Nevada, Reno online EMBA, contact Kambiz Raffiee, associate dean and director of the University of Nevada, Reno Online EMBA, at raffiee@unr.edu.


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